NHL Playoffs 2011: Tonight's Game 7 as Big as It Gets for Sharks & Wings

Adam DavisCorrespondent IMay 12, 2011

DETROIT - MAY 4:  Devin Setoguchi #16 of the San Jose Sharks is congratulated by Ryane Clowe #29 of the San Jose Sharks after Setoguchi's overtime goal defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 4, 2011 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Setoguchi had three goals in the game.   (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

In case you haven’t noticed, the theme of this year’s postseason has been a new game each night that earns the title of “biggest game we’ve seen so far!”

Tonight’s match-up between Detroit and San Jose should be no exception.

The Sharks seems poised to close out this series early on and move on to the nice vacation that the Lightning and Bruins have been enjoying. Whether the game ended after 60 or close OT decisions, the Sharks seemed calm and ready to knock out the perennial cup favorite Red Wings.

They were up 3-0 in the series, and it seemed to be all but over.

Detroit seemed to have other plans, putting up four goals in Game 4, almost as many as they had scored in the first three games. After some more dominant games by the Motor City vets, yadda yadda yadda, we find ourselves prepping for Game 7 and the final game of Round 2.

How did this happen? And more importantly, does San Jose even have a chance tonight?

NHL.com seems to be favoring the Red Wings for the W tonight, based on their overall experience, and more specifically, in Game 7's. That’s fair.

I’m going to take a different route, however and say that the role players are the x-factor in a game like this.

Sure, Detroit has Lidstrom, Modano, Bertuzzi, Rafalski, etc., who combined have hundreds of years of experience. I just think that guys like Couture, Clowe (if he plays), Wellwood, etc., who can shift into high gear and take this game into their own hands.

I also believe that goaltending is a major factor. Niemi is coming off of a Stanley Cup Championship, and to me he just seems more determined, skilled and intense than Howard. If anyone can pull off this game for the Sharks between the pipes, it’s Niemi—and they’re gonna need his A-game.

Both the Sharks and the Wings have solid teams, but I think that San Jose has been right there the whole time, even if they couldn’t pull out the W.

I give them the upper hand tonight based on the fact that they seem to want it more, and I trust their third and fourth liners more than I do Detroit’s. With Niemi on top of his game and Clowe/Couture getting chances, look for the Sharks to keep swimming for at least another few games.

There’s no doubt that tonight’s game is huge, both as Game 7 and as the last game of this round.

The intensity is at a maximum and the skill level between these two teams is way up there. On the biggest stage, and in front of every hockey fan who has nothing else to watch, the Sharks will take over and move on to the next round.